What are Golf Balls Made of & Why Does It Matter?

what are golf balls made of

I remember the first time I actually held a golf ball in my hand, wondering what this tiny, yet essential, orb was made of. What was inside of a golf ball? Was it rubber? Plastic? Something else entirely? That curiosity never really left me, and over time I discovered that the answer to “What are Golf Balls Made of” is far more intriguing than I ever could have imagined. 

With my golfing expertise, I can tell you that golf balls are made from a variety of materials, from synthetic resins to natural rubber, and the different types can drastically affect your golf game. So, you now know, the answer isn’t that simple. So, let’s delve into the question: What is a Golf Ball Made of?

What are Golf Balls Made of?

To start with as a novice, we all know the fact golf balls are made of rubber. But there is way more to it!! Golf balls are made up of multiple layers of materials that serve different purposes. The three main materials in golf balls are the core, mantle, and cover

But before we begin our journey into the composition of golf balls let’s get through the golf ball history. The evolution of golf balls has been a fascinating one, with several notable innovations leading to the modern golf ball we use today. 

Let’s take a look at the timeline of golf ball history in the table below:

What were Golf Balls Originally Made of [History of Golf Balls]
14th-17th centuryWooden balls made from hardwoods, such as beech and box
Late 17th-centuryFeatherie ball made of hand-sewn round leather stuffed with chicken or goose feathers and coated with paint
1848Gutta-percha ball or “gutty” made from the sap of the Malaysian sapodilla treeRobert Adams Paterson
1898Wound golf ball made from rubber threadCoburn Haskell
1897Indented ball or “dimpled” ball patentedDavid Stanley Froy, James McHardy, and Peter G. Fernie
Mid-1960sModern resin and polyurethane covered ball introducedDuPont

As we can see, each innovation improved the performance and longevity of the golf ball, making it a critical component of the modern game of golf.

So, what are golf balls made of today? 

Different layers of materials are used to make golf balls. Golf balls comprise three primary materials: core, mantle, and cover.

1. Core Material

The core of a golf ball determines the amount of energy transferred from the clubhead to the ball. But what is the core of a golf ball made of? There are two types of core golf ball materials  – solid and liquid. Solid cores are made from a high-energy rubber compound, while liquid cores are filled with a liquid substance such as water or oil.

(a) Solid Core Golf Balls

Solid core golf balls are perfect for players who want to achieve a high level of distance on their shots. The rubber compound used in solid cores is usually firm, allowing the ball to be compressed easily on impact and travel farther. 

(b) Liquid Core Golf Balls

Liquid core golf balls, on the other hand, are designed to provide players with more spin and control over the ball. The core material absorbs the clubhead’s energy and releases it slowly when the ball takes off, which generates more spin and increased directional control.

Golf Ball Material Core Comparison
Core MaterialDistancesSpinControl

During my experiment with various golf balls, I discovered that the weight of a golf ball varies with its core composition and it also changes compression ratios. I noticed that a harder core, smaller in size, would create a smaller compression ratio, and thus, less distance tended to be traveled by the golf ball. On the other hand, a larger and softer core would create relatively higher compression ratios, causing a ball to travel a further distance.

2. Mantle Material

The mantle is the layer between the core and the cover of a golf ball. This layer is typically made of rubber or a combination of rubber and other materials. The mantle provides a layer of cushioning between the core and the cover and can affect the ball’s spin rate and overall feel.

Rubber mantles are typically firmer and provide higher spin rates. Mantles made of a combination of materials, on the other hand, can vary in firmness and provide a more balanced spin rate. Generally, the harder the mantle, the more distance a ball can travel.

Golf Ball Material Mantle Comparison
Mantle MaterialSpeedDistanceSpin

3. Cover Material 

After knowing the materials on the inside of a golf ball comes the outermost layer of a golf ball is the cover. It determines the ball’s feel and durability. Golf ball covers are made from different materials, such as urethane, surlyn, and ionomer.

(a) Urethane

Urethane covers are commonly used in high-end golf balls. They are soft, provide great spin, and offer exceptional feel and control around the greens. However, urethane covers are also less durable than other covers and can show signs of wear easily.

(b) Surlyn

Surlyn covers are more durable than urethane and provide a more consistent flight pattern. They are ideal for golfers who want a ball that can withstand harsh weather conditions. Surlyn-covered balls also have a harder feel and less spin than those with urethane covers.

(c) Ionomer

Ionomer covers are a blend of the two previously mentioned materials. They offer a balance of durability and feel, making them an excellent choice for beginner and intermediate golfers. The cover material is also designed to resist scuffing, making it ideal for those who tend to hit the ball with less precision.

Golf Ball Cover Material Comparison
Cover MaterialDurabilityFeelSpin
UrethaneLess durableSoftGreat Spin
SurlynMore durableHardLow Spin
IonomerModerate durabilityBalanced FeelModerate Spin

On a personal note, I noticed that Surlyn covers prioritize durability, providing excellent resistance against wear and tear while also minimizing scratches. Urethane covers are softer and are the go-to for players who seek increased control and feel while playing.

What You Must KNOW: Golf balls must meet specific size (the diameter of the golf ball should not be less than 1.680 inches [42.67 mm]) and weight (must not be more than 1.620 ounces [45.93 g]) requirements set by the USGA and R&A. 

As far as traditional and customary form and manufacture are concerned, only golf balls constructed entirely from elastomeric materials (i.e., viscoelastic with a low elastic modulus) will be considered. A small amount of non-elastomeric material may be allowed.

Exceptions To Note

A single, concentric core that measures about 0.9-in (22.9mm) in diameter may be used for golf balls, as long as it complies with the following golf ball core requirements:

  1. Consists of a single chamber of fluid;
  2. In the absence of elastomers, the structure is rigid (for example, a metallic sphere with a solid or hollow shell).

How are Golf Balls Made?

The process of making golf balls is a complex one. It involves a lot of trial and error, research, and development. It is not just about making a spherical object, but it’s about creating a ball that meets the needs of professional golfers and amateurs alike.

a closeup image of golf balls in hands

The manufacturing process for golf balls involves various stages, including

Step 1. Molding: During this stage, the rubber cores are molded into their spherical shape. The molds used in the process can vary in size and shape depending on the type of golf ball being made. After the rubber core is molded into the desired shape, golf ball dimples are created through a process called compression molding. The depth and pattern of dimples used vary depending on the type of golf ball being made. 

Step 2. Coating: The cores are then coated with a layer of plastic or resin material. This layer is applied to increase the durability and consistency of the golf ball.

Step 3. Painting: The golf balls are painted with a layer of white or colored paint. The paint is designed to protect the ball from UV rays and to provide a visually appealing finish.

Step 4. Stamping: Once the paint is dry, the golf balls are stamped with their brand name, model, and number.

Step 5. Packaging: Finally, the golf balls are packaged up into boxes and sent out to retailers.

We are now clear with how golf balls are made but do not forget there is way more to it. Many different types of golf balls exist and different types mean different requirements. Read on to learn more.

YouTube Video via Factora

Types of Golf Balls

There are different types of golf balls available, each designed to suit different golfers with varying swing speeds and skill levels. Let’s take a look at the different types of golf balls and the process of making them.

1. One-Piece Golf Ball

The one-piece golf ball is the simplest type of golf ball available. It is typically used for practice or training purposes. It is made from a single piece of rubber and is extremely durable. Since it is made only of rubber, there is no coating or cover applied to it.
2. Two-Piece Golf Ball

The two-piece golf ball is the most common type of golf ball used by amateurs and professionals alike. It is made up of a solid rubber core with a hard plastic cover. The plastic cover is typically made of a material called Surlyn, which is extremely durable.
3. Three-Piece Golf Ball

The three-piece golf ball is made up of a rubber core, a softer outer layer, and a plastic cover. The outer layer is made of a material called balata, which provides a softer feel compared to the harder Surlyn cover used in the two-piece golf ball. The three-piece golf ball is a popular choice among low-to-mid handicappers as it provides a balance of distance and control.
4. Four-Piece Golf Ball

The four-piece golf ball is designed for professional golfers and those with high swing speeds. The inside of a golf ball has a small rubber core, a second layer of rubber, a third layer made of high-energy materials, and a plastic cover. The four-piece golf ball is designed to provide maximum distance, spin control, and feel.
5. Five-Piece Golf Ball

The five-piece golf ball is the most advanced type of golf ball available and is designed for elite-level professional golfers. There are several layers of high-energy materials in the rubber core, as well as a plastic covering. Five-piece golf balls provide maximum distance, spin control, feel, and forgiveness.

As a professional golfer, I have had the opportunity to play with all types of golf balls. Each ball has its own unique properties, and choosing the right ball for your game can make a big difference in your score. I personally prefer four-piece golf balls. They offer added power and precision to generate a backspin golf ball shot. However, the ideal ball for you will depend on your skill level and playing style.

What is Inside a Golf Ball?

an image of two cut pieces of a golf ball

Like any sport, equipment plays an important role in golf, and understanding the construction of a golf ball can make a difference in your game.

  • On the inside of a golf ball core lies a small, solid, or liquid-filled center that is typically made of rubber. This core provides the initial compression of the ball upon impact with the clubface. 
  • Surrounding the core are one or more layers of material, known as mantle layers, that help control spin, increase distance, and improve accuracy. The number of golf ball layers can vary depending on the type of ball and the manufacturer. I always pay attention to the core as they play a crucial role in hitting a golf ball straight or achieving a shot you prefer.
  • The outer layer of the golf ball, also known as the cover, is typically made of a durable synthetic material such as Surlyn or urethane. The cover provides the feel and durability of the ball.
  • Lastly, the dimples on a golf ball are not just an aesthetic feature, but a crucial component of the aerodynamics of the ball. Dimples help reduce drag and increase lift, which allows the ball to travel farther.

To help simplify the construction on the inside of a golf ball, I’ve included a table below with more details on each component.

CoreOne or more mantle layers of a golf ball control spin, increase distance and improve accuracy
LayersOne or more mantle layers of a golf ball control spin, increase distance, and improve accuracy
CoverThe outer golf ball layer that provides the feel and durability of the ball, typically made of Surlyn or urethane
DimplesSmall indentations that reduce drag and increase lift, allowing the ball to travel farther

Understanding the anatomy of a golf ball can help you choose the right ball for your game. So, next time you’re on the course, take a closer look at your ball and see if you can spot the different components at play. To know more, you can have a look at the study of characterization of the materials in golf ball construction for use in finite element analysis.

How are Recycled Golf Balls Made?

I know that recycled golf balls can be a great option if you’re looking to save some money without sacrificing quality. Here’s how they’re made:

Step 1. Collection: First, various used and free golf balls are collected from golf courses, lakes, and other locations.

Step 2. Sorting: The balls are then sorted by brand, model, and condition. Balls in good condition can be cleaned and resold as used, while those that are damaged or worn are sent for recycling.

Step 3. Cleaning: Next, the balls are thoroughly cleaned to remove any dirt, grass, or other debris that may have accumulated on them. This is usually done using a specialized machine that uses high-pressure water jets and scrubbing brushes. In fact, golf ball numbers are also checked to see if they are visible or need to be stamped again.

Step 4. Separation: After cleaning, the balls are separated by type and quality. Those that are still in good condition can be sold as recycled balls, while others may need to be further processed.

Step 5. Resurfacing: To bring the recycled balls back up to par, they may need to be resurfaced. This involves removing any scuffs or nicks on the ball’s surface and repainting it to restore its original appearance.

Step 6. Testing: Finally, the balls are rigorously tested to ensure that they meet performance and quality standards.

By following these steps, recycled golf balls can be made just as good as new ones and at a fraction of the cost! 

Steps in Recycled Golf Ball Production
CollectionGathering used golf balls from golf courses, lakes, and other locations.
SortingSorting by brand, model, and condition.
CleaningThorough cleaning using specialized machinery.
SeparationSeparating by type and quality.
ResurfacingRestoring the surface through the removal of scuffs and nicks on the ball’s surface and repainting.
TestingRigorously testing to ensure performance and quality standards are met.
Benefits of Recycled Golf Balls
Cost-effectivePerfect for those on a budget looking for high-quality balls.
Eco-friendlyMinimizes environmental impact by repurposing used balls.
QualityMade to function and perform like new balls.
AccessibilityAvailable in a wide variety of models and brands.
ConvenienceEasy to order and purchase.

The Design of Golf Balls is Important, Right?

I remember the first time I tried to bounce a golf ball on our side course. I had no idea that the dimple pattern, compression, cover material, and core construction of the ball could have such a significant impact on its aerodynamics. Despite my effort, the ball barely bounced at all, disappointing me greatly. Then I realized why manufacturers spent years of research and development to fine-tune ball designs and create better golf balls that suit different playing styles and preferences. 

Actually, the golf ball’s dimple pattern, compression, cover material, and core construction are some of the key elements that influence its flight and spin. Choosing the right ball that complements your swing and skill level will help you achieve better scores and enhance your overall golfing experience.

Now You Know What’s Inside of a Golf Ball

I hope you’ve learned a thing or two about what are golf balls made of. From the early days of using wooden balls to the modern high-tech designs of today, the evolution of golf balls has been fascinating to witness as a golf expert. While the materials used in making golf balls vary, the quest for improved performance and durability is a common goal shared by golf ball makers. 

As for golf ball prices, you can find a range of options to fit any budget, so don’t let the cost keep you from enjoying the game. So, next time you’re on the golf course, take a moment to appreciate the small but mighty golf ball. And for all your golfing needs, be sure to follow Golf Ace Nation – your go-to source for golf expertise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What were the first golf balls made of?

The first golf balls were made of wood. They were small, round, and had a smooth surface. These wooden golf balls have been used for many years before the game of golf became more popular. Golf enthusiasts often struggled to find proper golf balls that could travel far and straight. Therefore, the search for better golf balls began, leading to the creation of different materials and designs that we see today.

Q. What are biodegradable golf balls made of?

Biodegradable golf balls are composed of two essential components: corn starch and Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA). These materials allow the balls to break down naturally, without harming the environment. The corn starch acts as a base, while PVA works to bond the ingredients together. The result is a durable golf ball that will biodegrade over time, leaving no negative impact on the environment.

Q. What is the liquid inside a golf ball?

The liquid inside of a golf ball is typically a rubber-like substance called polybutadiene. This liquid is essential to the performance of the ball, as it helps to give it the correct weight, balance, and spin. In addition to polybutadiene, some golf balls may also feature other liquids or gels that help to absorb shock and reduce vibration upon impact with the club. 

Q. Are golf balls made of rubber bands?

No, golf balls are not made of rubber bands. They are typically made of a hard plastic or rubber outer layer with a core made of synthetic materials such as polybutadiene. This combination allows for the ball to have a certain level of softness while still maintaining its shape and durability during play.

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